September 4, 2023 [Riviera]- Built in 2013, the Spanish El Musel regasification facility was never used and was often referred to as one Spanish LNG terminal too many, but now El Musel seems like amazing foresight.
In July this year, the El Musel regasification facility received its first LNG cargo from 174,000-m3 LNG carrier Cool Racer. Located in Gijón on the Bay of Biscay, the terminal has two tanks with a storage capacity of 300,000 m3.
El Musel was built in 2013 and had been unused for all of its life. It looked like the country had too many terminals and Europe was laughing at the Spaniards and their over-building of LNG import terminals.
Well, the laughter ended, of course, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine proved that the Spaniards (and other south European countries) were in a much better position when faced with a Russian natural gas ban.
How many import terminals does Spain have, you might ask? And why? After all, Spain already has massive pipelines connecting it to northern Africa capable and actively supplying natural gas.
In fact, Spain has currently seven active LNG import terminals:
- Barcelona LNG terminal in Barcelona (Enagas)
- Cartagena LNG in Cartagena, Murcia (Enagas)
- Huelva LNG terminal in Huelva (Enagas)
- El Musel terminal in Gijón (Enagas)
- Bahía Bizkaia Gas in Bilbao (BBG)
- Saggas terminal in Sagunto, Valencia (Saggas)
- Mugardos in El Ferrol, Galicia (Reganosa)
In comparison, several European countries had no LNG import terminals before the Ukraine invasion and were relying on their pipelines and a future move towards other sources of energy.
Many of these Spanish terminals have been underutilised in the past. It is unlikely the original intention was to keep the terminals unused or underused for so long.
But in the end, these terminals provided Spain with an incredible capacity to resist the energy crisis that isolated Europe last year and that still has not been completely resolved.
Spain has potential for more terminals, especially in the Canary islands, where two were planned in the past. Is it time to retake those plans? Time will tell.
I am personally a big fan of a network of small LNG terminals in the islands. All these terminals have been used to discharge cargoes and reload them to other destinations when the market was right, and the market has been right on several occasions.
In a surprising turn of events, these import terminals are being used to receive gas and then to export it to Morocco via pipeline and Shell has just secured a long-term agreement with Morocco using that formula.
All this shows that energy infrastructure has to be planned and strategised at a country level at the very least, if not at supranational level (EU anyone?).
Leaving the long-term planning to the free markets only helps investors, not the country, nor the final consumer in case of a sudden crisis and these sudden crises (sometimes called black swans) happen regularly.
It might be a war, a sudden event at the other side of the world that spikes prices or anything else. Modern societies simply cannot live without a reliable supply of energy.
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